cover image A Girl Named Zippy: Growing Up Small in Mooreland Indiana

A Girl Named Zippy: Growing Up Small in Mooreland Indiana

Haven Kimmel. Doubleday Books, $21.95 (288pp) ISBN 978-0-385-49982-8

It's a clich to say that a good memoir reads like a well-crafted work of fiction, but Kimmel's smooth, impeccably humorous prose evokes her childhood as vividly as any novel. Born in 1965, she grew up in Mooreland, Ind., a place that by some ""mysterious and powerful mathematical principle"" perpetually retains a population of 300, a place where there's no point learning the street names because it's just as easy to say, ""We live at the four-way stop sign."" Hers is less a formal autobiography than a collection of vignettes comprising the things a small child would remember: sick birds, a new bike, reading comics at the drugstore, the mean old lady down the street. The truths of childhood are rendered in lush yet simple prose; here's Zippy describing a friend who hates wearing girls' clothes: ""Julie in a dress was like the rest of us in quicksand."" Over and over, we encounter pearls of third-grade wisdom revealed in a child's assured voice: ""There are a finite number of times one can safely climb the same tree in a single day""; or, regarding Jesus, ""Everyone around me was flat-out in love with him, and who wouldn't be? He was good with animals, he loved his mother, and he wasn't afraid of blind people."" (Mar.) Forecast: Dreamy and comforting, spiced with flashes of wit, this book seems a natural for readers of the Oprah school of women's fiction (e.g., Elizabeth Berg, Janet Fitch). The startling baby photograph on the cover should catch browsers' eyes.